Top 13 Best Online Forum Software 2020 (Free and Paid)

Best forum software – Learn what is the best discussion forum software? See the list of top 13 best online forum software 2020 (free and paid), free forum software.

Do you want to create a forum website for free? Or, Just looking for the best free forum software to create a free forum? Most of us know very well that attractive design, efficient performance, high-quality and relevant content, and easy navigability are some of the most important ingredients of any successful and best online discussion forums.

But the majority of peoples feel very confused and clearly uncertain about what they should choose when it comes to matters of selecting the best online forum platform or reliable open source forum software in order to create some most amazing online discussion community or user-friendly online discussion forums.

We all know that forum software is a necessity when venturing out in the wide vast world of internet and keeping in mind the importance of online forum software, today we have gathered some best free forum software and paid forum software for you.

online forum software

(Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links and images. I earn advertising/referral fees if you make a purchase by clicking them. There is no extra cost to you. See our full disclosure here. )

Whether you are on the lookout for free forum software or if you are planning to start your very own online forum, in either of the cases you are going to benefit a lot from this post. In this free software guide, we are going to share a complete list of the top 13 best online forum software 2020 (free and paid).

Top 13 Best Forum Software 2020 (Free and Paid)

This guide contains some best open source forum software and paid membership forum software as well. All these online forum software are very easy to use and all you need to do is choose the one that suits your needs the best and there you go! You can start your very own discussion boards just like that.

So, without doing any delay let’s check out the below-mentioned list of top 13 best online forum software of 2020. I hope you will find them useful for you:

phpBB (Free)

If you are looking for the #1 free open-source bulletin board software then phpBB is the perfect forum software choice for you. phpBB is one of the best online forum software which comes with a bulletin board format.

Using this best forum software, you can stay on top of everything that is happening across your website as well as communicates with a group of people at the same time.


phpBB – a free flat-forum bulletin board software solution

The database of phpBB comes with a variety of user-created styles and notifications which you can use for customizing your board. The most interesting thing with phpBB is that it allows you to make changes to the code without first having to obtain permission from the phpBB Group, it’s all because the phpBB is released under the GNU General Public License. 

vBulletin (Paid)

Undoubtedly, vBulletin is the most renowned and the world’s leading community software developed by vBulletin Solutions, Inc. and released in 2000. vBulletin is a premium online forum software which is the choice of several top-notch websites.

There are several built-in applications that come with this discussion forum software, such as events management, groups, photo albums, blogs, polls, calendars and so on. vBulletin is available in 3 different versions: Mobile Suite, Forum Suite as well as Publishing Suite.


vBulletin – The World’s Leading Community Software

Some of the most important features of vBulletin forum software are Unlimited Hierarchy of Forums, Thread and forum subscription, Supports BB Code in posts, Supports HTML in post, Preview post option, Member Profile Pages, Private Messaging, Custom Avatars, Unlimited Moderators and SuperModerators, forum style chooser, Task Scheduler, Moderation queues for user registration and posting, Powerful Templating System, Full CSS layout and design, fast and suitable for robust development, and much more things.

Simple Machines Forum (Free)

Simple Machines Forum (SMF) is a professional, simple to use discussion forum software package with the help of which you can create and set up your very own online community within just a few minutes! Its engine is custom- made and it provides you with complete control over the layout of the message board and also lets everyone on your forum to communicate with each other.

simple machines forum

Simple Machines Forum – Free and open source community software

This forum software is written in PHP and its database is created using MySQL. All features expected from a bulletin board are a part of SMF. In easy words, Simple Machines Forum is elegant, effective and powerful free online forum software which is well known for following attractive features of SMF:

  • Advanced permission and user management.
  • Supports multiple languages at once.
  • Tracking of new and old unread topics, not just from your last visit.
  • Better SEO (Search Engine Optimization for search engines).
  • A package manager that automatically installs or uninstalls mods.
  • Major actions are time and IP locked, preventing ‘hammering’.
  • Put a board into maintenance mode, allowing only admins to log in.
  • Create child boards under other boards.
  • Allow certain member groups to access aboard, including guests only.
  • Configure permissions for each member group on the board level.
  • Disable member registration completely.
  • Require email authentication by sending an authentication link.
  • Both cookie and session-based authentication.
  • Tracking of topics, messages, new members, and hits per day.
  • Ability to create announcement boards.
  • Ability to choose to send mail or SMTP.
  • Ban members based on their username, email address, IP address or hostname
  • Support for WAP, WAP2 and I-mode protocols.
  • Members can choose which smiley set they wish to use (or none.)
  • “Insert Quote” feature on posting screen to quickly quote previous replies.
You might also like to see: Top 20 Best Search Engines in the World

bbPress (Free)

If your website is powered by, then bbPress is undoubtedly the best online forum software for you. bbPress is specifically designed by focusing on ease of integration, ease of use, web standards, and speed. Creating online community forums has never been such easy.


WordPress BuddyPress bbPress community support forums

bbPress puts emphasis on the ease of use as well as integration, also keeping in mind all the web standards and speed of navigation. Some of the eye-catching features of bbPress forum software are:

  • Simple Setup: Simple Setup Easy to setup. Easy to moderate. Fast, and clean.
  • Fully Integrated: One central account. One unified admin area. One-click install.
  • Single Installation: Simple step-by-step installation walks you through your options.
  • Multisite Forums: Divide your site into sections. Allow your users to create content.
  • Fast and light: The code is lean so that you get the best experience possible.
  • Simple interface: Always keep things simple and make things intuitive.
  • Highly extensible: bbPress can’t toast your bagels, but a plugin for it sure could!
  • Spam protection: Full Akismet support built in offering you an amazing weapon against spam.
  • Customizable templates: Not everybody likes the same pair of pants, so we allow you to dress up your forums however you like.

PlushForums (Paid)

PlushForums is a hosted forum platform with a very modern, user-friendly design. Its most notable feature is real-time discussions that update quickly, so your users can have engaging conversations. It also has many integrated features like a blog, member directory, private group messaging and content monetization through PayPal.


Online Community Forum Software – Hosted by PlushForums

PlushForums is fast and secure and can be administered easily. No technical knowledge or plugins are necessary. Its many great features make it an ideal no-hassle solution:

  • Real-time discussions and private group messaging.
  • Beautiful design, easy to brand.
  • Secure hosting with integrated spam protection and regular backups
  • Integrated blog and member directory.
  • Real-time on-site and email notifications, with @mentions and hashtags.
  • Excellent mobile device support.
  • Simple editor with automatic drafts.
  • Easy to upload images, files, and other embedded media.
  • Powerful search with instant results and Advanced options
  • Reputation system, rankings, and rewards
  • Customizable user profiles
  • Integrated PayPal content monetization support

ZetaBoards (Free)

Do you want to create a free forum with no limit on posts or members? If yes, you must try out ZetaBoards Free Forum Hosting software. ZetaBoards is also one of the top 13 best forum software 2020. which offers free forum hosting which is crucial for the growth of any website on the internet. It doesn’t limit the forum communities by members, posts or bandwidth.


Free Forum Hosting – ZetaBoards | Create a free forum with no limit on posts or members.

ZetaBoards free forum software is quite user-friendly and extraordinarily easy to use. Joinable groups, full customization, support for custom domains, custom profile fields, and pinned topics are some of the noticeable features of Zetaboards. If you are really interested in getting an amazing online forum software that allows the maximum level of customizations then download ZetaBoards right now and start using it.

IP. Board (Paid)

For creating an engaging and effortful discussion forum on the web, IP.Board is yet another best forum software that you can use for your website. There are comprehensive tools that are a part of this premium forum software. It will certainly encourage the visitors in coming back to your website. Users can also promote and share the content present on your website using IP.Board.

ip. board

IPS Community Suite – a flexible, integrated set of apps for building great communities on the web.

Even, Evernote is using the IPS Community Suite to supercharge their C2C support and product discussion forums, helping users to efficiently get effective support for Evernote products.

PunBB (Free)

PunBB is yet another best free forum software that is powered by lightweight PHP and released under the GNU General Public License. This online discussion forum software is created with the goal of being lighter, faster, and less graphically intensive. There are very few basic features in PunBB as compared to others on this list. However, it is also comparatively faster and provides smaller outputs which are XHTML compliant pages and are also semantically accurate.


PunBB – a fast and lightweight PHP-powered discussion board.

Important note: Since PunBB is written in PHP and so it requires the PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor. In addition to this, PunBB forum software also requires a database for storing forum data and for that purpose PunBB perfectly supports MySQL, PostgreSQL, and SQLite.

You might also like to read: Top 7 Best Free Plagiarism Checker Tools

Vanilla Forums (Paid)

When it comes to the matter of premium forum software or online forum platforms, Vanilla Forums holds a top position. Vanilla community forum software is one of the top 13 best forum software 2020 and it offers hosted and open source community forum software that offers power to the usual discussion forums. You can create customized communities for better user participation, accurate content and also for allowing the members to drive moderations on your website.

vanilla forums

Vanilla forum software – Powers discussions on hundreds of thousands of sites.

The most noticeable and beneficial thing with Vanilla Forums is the process of migration to Vanilla community forum. You can easily migrate from any platform (vBulletin, Invision Power (IPB), Simple Press, bbPress, SMF, Lithium, Jive, phpBB, GetSatisfaction, Pluck, Zendesk, and Home-grown legacy software) without any interruptions.

XenForo (Paid)

XenForo is also a well popular and one of the best forum software 2020 which is commercial in nature. This commercial internet forum software package is written in the PHP programming language using the Zend Framework and is a creation of the former vBulltein lead team of developers.


XenForo – Compelling Community Forum Software

This is a very popular paid forum software with a variety of SEO features, powerful add-ons, social engagement features, and recent activity streaming.

Woltlab Burning Board (Paid)

WoltLab Burning Boards is another best forum software which is fast and reliable in nature. Basically, Woltlab Burning Board is a PHP based forum software, developed since May 2001 by a German company, WoltLab GmbH. Installing and running Woltlab Burning Board software requires a server or webspace with PHP support and a MySQL database (System Requirements: PHP 5.3.2+, MySQL 5.1.17+).

woltlab burning board

WoltLab Burning Board – Forum Software Made for Success

Woltlab Burning Board comes with 3 premium versions: Burning Board, Burning Board Lite and Community Framework, all of which are helpful in expanding your online user base. Some of the most interesting features in Woltlab Burning Board forum software are:

  • Quick Notifications
  • Visual Customization
  • Recent Activities detection
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Facebook Integration
  • State-of-the-art Technology
  • Multilingualism
  • Extensible with Plugins
  • First-class Security
  • Against Spam
  • Import From Other Systems

MyBB (Free)

If you are looking for a reliable free and Open Source Forum Software to create a forum website for free then MyBB forum software is a great choice.

MyBB is the free and open-source, intuitive, extensible, and incredibly powerful forum software which is well known for its extremely efficient performance, ease of use, extensive plugin system, developed and refined administration control, powerful and convenient moderation tools, template editor and easy CSS editor, private messaging, multiple calendars and events, user promotions, warning system, mass email and newsletters, task scheduling system, and powerful DBMS support.

create a free forum

MyBB – Free and Open Source Forum Software

In addition to all these amazing features, you can also extend MyBB’s functionality to build your community exactly as you’d like it through the various plugins and themes. If you want to have a Discussion-centered, Complete control, Personal and interactive, Clean, simple, powerful, and free Forum Software then try out MyBB forum program right now.

Flarum (Free)

Flarum is free, open-source forum software built with PHP and Mithril.js that makes online discussion fun. It is packed full of innovation, all wrapped up in a beautiful design, Elegant UI, Touch-Optimized, Fast & Lightweight, Easy Installation, Extensible Architecture, Themeable, Notifications, and Powerful Permissions.

how to create a forum

Flarum – Forums Made Simple, Fast, and Free.

Installing Flarum is also extremely simple and it doesn’t require too much programming skills. Flarum is a really cool and new open-source PHP forum system that you need to try out for creating your own free forum.


We hope you got a useful list of internet forum softwareTop 13 Best Online Forum Software 2020 (Free and Paid)“. Creating online discussion forums is really a very easy task with these popular online forum software and services. We hope that now you are able to easily build a super awesome online discussion community or online discussion forum with the help of these best free forum creation programs.

Pick one of these free and open source forum software solutions to set up your own online discussion community right now and enjoy it!

You may also be interested in checking out:

81 thoughts on “Top 13 Best Online Forum Software 2020 (Free and Paid)”

  1. Hi Amit Kumar,

    Great list of Forum software indeed!

    No doubt, nowadays, In internet world. Forums are most popular among web master. Most of user spend their time there and discuss many problems with each other. and I think the first one is best all of them. actually I never worked on Forum but want to make a successful forum. and thanks Amit for suggesting us best Forum software.

    Best Regards:
    Areesha Noor!

  2. Amazing that you completely bypassed myBB. It has greatly improved the last several years.

    vBULLETIN is an overrated software. Many complains about bugs and bad customer support. Xenforo has a lot of former vBULLETIN users using it.

    phpBB3 is good.

    smf is good.

    bbpress is a very bare forum set up.

    Like the Woltlab set up, considered buying it at one time.

    The rest I have no idea

  3. What about myBB? I think it should be on this list? Does it has any problem? Actually, I am using MyBB for my forum. Anyway this is a great list.

  4. What about newer hosted services like Muut and PlushForums? These are more Twitter/Facebook-like designs for the forum interface.

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  10. Great list of Forum software indeed!

    No doubt, nowadays, In internet world. Forums are most popular among web master. Most of user spend their time there and discuss many problems with each other. and I think the first one is best all of them. actually I never worked on Forum but want to make a successful forum. and thanks Amit for suggesting us best Forum software.

    Best Regards:

  11. vBulletin Has Many Useful Feature But vBulletin Security feature is very week more 35K Sites Has been hacked, I will Recommend MyBB For Free version or Xenforo For Paid Version.

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